ESSAYS ON SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

Intimations of Immortality

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Science  07 Apr 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5463, pp. 59
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5463.59

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  • Longer Life Is Just...Progress
    • , Computer Programming
    • Other Contributors:

    It is good to debate this subject, and there are a few points that I think need stressing. First, we won't suddenly produce an "immortality" treatment one day. As Harris points out, it will start with cures for some diseases and a slightly extended life-span. Eventually though, it will no doubt begin to increase the divide between the have's and the have not's. In time, it will have a massive effect on society and culture,...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Many Roads to Immortality
    • , Computer Consultant
    • Other Contributors:

    I realize that this is appearing several months after the original article, but there are several important points that I feel have been missed by the respondents, if not the author himself.

    The first is that immortality is not just around the corner, just the abolition of aging. People will still die due to disease, accidents, crime, or suicide. The only figures that I can find quickly are for Lake County, Il...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Political Consequences
    • , Chemistry Teacher
    • Other Contributors:

    The political consequences of "immortality therapy" becoming available in the relatively near future may be much more dangerous than any of the consequences discussed in this debate so far.

    As Harris says, the initial cost of this technology will be high. At first it might not be just expensive ($1 million per person), but enormously expensive ($100 million or more). In this case, some of the earliest customers...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Not Immortals, but Invulnerables
    • , Sociologist
    • Other Contributors:
    In spite of recent advances, experience shows that aging is a universal and irreversible process. However, such a prudent assumption does not imply the existence of a maximum natural age expressed in any scale of time (as 120 years for human beings). Any kind of dynamic limit, as a minimal rate of living or a minimal speed of aging, should be more convincing. Physical, biological, and social systems could be replaceable resource...
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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Who's Afraid of Life?
    • , Philosopher
    • Other Contributors:

    Objections against radical life-extension are of two kinds. First, there are those that worry about the effects on society, for example, how would Social Security cope with a deluge of 150-year-olds? If only some have access to life-extension technology, won’t that increase inequalities? To discuss these issues intelligently, it is imperative not to think of life-extension in isolation from other developments that will ta...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Anethical Exculpations
    • , Research Staff
    • Other Contributors:

    I have to admit to a palpable feeling of shock on reading the words of bioethicist John Harris that, "If increased life expectancy is a good, should we deny palpable goods to some people because we cannot provide them for everyone? We do not refuse kidney transplants to some patients because we cannot provide them for all, nor do we regard ourselves as wicked because we perform many such transplants, while low-income cou...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Immortality: The Search for Truth
    • , Science Research
    • Other Contributors:

    The search for immortality has been a long-term endeavor that humankind has pursued since the beginning of time. Philosophers, adventurers, and modern-day scientists have given their best efforts and mental energies to find "the key" or elixir that would allow many (or all) of us to share the "benefits" of this plateau of human existence. To achieve immortality seems to be a goal worthy of a society that sees itself at the...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Immortality Ambivalence
    • , Health economist
    • Other Contributors:

    The human race has been fighting death for a long time, and now victory is in sight, but somehow it does not seem quite right. Why this ambivalence? We do not know when immortality will be realized, but provided human civilization survives, it is now a matter of "when" not "if." The "when" may be as far away as 150 years or as close as 40, but as Harris notes, technological solutions to our senescence can be found.

    ...
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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Is Immortality Necessary?
    • , PhD student
    • Other Contributors:

    In searching for the answer to the question of our place in the universe, I do not believe immortality is the "key," as Bineau describes it, to the "door" that leads us to the answers. As scientists we are in a constant process of discovery, and each answered question, albeit a minor step, is leading us to answer both the questions of death AND our place in the universe, whether we are aware of it or not. I do not bel...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Immortality : New Horizons for Humankind
    • , Consultant
    • Other Contributors:

    If we as a society could provide immortality on the basis of merit (instead of money), and then nurture, train, and deploy such immortal beings into areas that require one to hold an extensive and evolving body of knowledge, this would help humankind in general to open new vistas for development, growth, and wealth creation. And that might mean more food for people, more employment, health benefits, and so on. Eventually...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Immortality Belongs to the Evolution
    • , french doctor
    • Other Contributors:

    I agree with many ideas in this essay. A fear of death is probably the reason why our societies always try to develop further. For me, immortality belongs to this evolution. I imagine death like a wall we have to jump over. To jump over it we need to develop new ideas on how life works (like the telomeres) and devlop new technologies, and now we seem to be so close to reaching the goal of immortality that we are starting...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Churning of the ocean and nectar of immortality
    • , Research Scientist
    • Other Contributors:

    There is an episode in ancient Hindu mythology that tells the story about the Gods and Demons churning an ocean of milk using Mandara hill as the churning post and Vasuki, the snake king, as the rope wound around the hill. The main task was to bring up amrit, the nectar or elixir of immortality. The ocean yielded several important gems, poison, and then the coveted vessel containing the nectar of immortality. It was dec...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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